NFC East: 2012 Rams trade No. 2 pick

Officially, the trade that will send three first-round draft picks and a second-rounder from the Washington Redskins to the St. Louis Rams in exchange for this year's No. 2 pick can't be announced or finalized until the new league year opens Tuesday. But it has been agreed upon several days early, and there are some good reasons for that from the Redskins' standpoint.

With that pick, and assuming the Colts draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck at No. 1, the Redskins are expected to draft Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. And the fact that the rest of the NFL knows or assumes that is vital to the Redskins as they begin their plans for free agency.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Dave MartinKnowing, and letting it be known, that they'll draft Robert Griffin III can help the Redskins in many areas as they prepare for 2012.
The Redskins have upwards of $40 million in projected salary-cap room, so they'll be able to make very competitive offers for high-profile free agents. But with this deal done before any of those, they'll also be able to answer a lot of the questions those prospective free agents were going to be asking them. Chief among those questions is "Who's your quarterback?"

Coach Mike Shanahan wants to go out and get a No. 1 wide receiver -- someone like Vincent Jackson of the Chargers. And while a big pile of money surely would have been an enticement, the Redskins are not the only team that's going to be offering Jackson a big pile of money. Now they can go to him with the money and the promise of Griffin -- a player who generates a great deal of positive buzz. Not only do the Redskins have their answer at quarterback, they have an answer that's liable to get prospective free agents excited.

The Redskins also have been trying to re-sign veteran linebacker London Fletcher. They consider him a top priority and would love to get him signed before the free-agent market opens Tuesday. Fletcher likes it in Washington but was probably justifiably curious about what the team was doing at quarterback for next season. This deal is an easy one to sell to Fletcher. He's about to turn 37. He doesn't care about the Redskins' 2013 and 2014 draft. He's thinking about the 2012 season, and this deal makes it look a lot brighter for Washington than it did 24 hours ago. Maybe this is the kind of thing, along with some of that big money, that helps bring back this vital veteran piece.

Washington needs to do a lot yet to build around Griffin, for now and for the future. But it has the means with which to do that. If the Redskins hadn't done this deal when they did it, every free-agent signing (heck, every draft pick) they made would have been accompanied by cries of "Yeah, great, but who's the quarterback?" Having done this when they did it, they no longer have to worry about that. They have solved their greatest need early in their offseason, and they still have plenty of money with which to play in the market.
Robert Griffin IIIRonald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Washington Redskins gave up a lot for the opportunity to draft Robert Griffin III.

Well, that settles that, then. Count the Washington Redskins out on Peyton Manning and count them in big on Robert Griffin III. Adam Schefter reports that Washington has agreed to trade its next three first-round picks, plus this year's second-round pick, to the St. Louis Rams for the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft. With Indianapolis expected to take Andrew Luck No. 1 overall and the Redskins desperate for a quarterback, we are left to presume they will use that pick to draft Griffin, the Heisman Trophy winner out of Baylor, to be their quarterback of the future.

It isn't surprising that the Redskins are trading up for Griffin. They wanted him badly, and there are few if any teams in the league that need help at quarterback more than they do. What's shocking is the price. To move up four spots in this year's draft, they are trading away first-rounders in 2012, 2013 and 2014, as well as a second-rounder in 2012. It feels like too much, and it puts a heck of a lot of pressure on Griffin. They're basically going to draft him and tell him, "All right. It's all yours. But we don't have a first-round pick in either of the next two years with which to help you out."

This tells me a number of things:

It tells me the Redskins are 100 percent sold on Griffin. That they believe he can step right in and start next year and be the answer over the long haul. That they are convinced he can handle the kind of pressure I just talked about. That he fits what they want to do on offense and that he can pick it up quickly. There's no reason to doubt any of this. Based on everything we've seen and heard from Griffin, he fits these descriptions well, and Mike Shanahan and his coaching staff have surely researched it more deeply and directly than any of us have.

It tells me they plan to be big players in free agency. With a projected $40 million or so in cap room, they can afford to throw money at a stud wide receiver like Vincent Jackson, add depth to their offensive line, re-sign running back Tim Hightower if he's healthy, give London Fletcher the contract he wants to remain the captain of their defense and upgrade where they need to upgrade in the secondary. They will need to do the bulk of this stuff in free agency, because they're not going to have a pick after Griffin until the third round, and they must feel confident that they can get the players they plan to target and put the right pieces around Griffin right away.

It tells me they got a big, fat "no" from Manning, which is basically what Chris Russell of ESPN 980 in Washington reported Thursday, and wanted to act swiftly to make sure they weren't forced to go to Plan C. If they didn't get Manning or Griffin, they were going to have to sign someone like Kyle Orton and/or draft Ryan Tannehill higher than his value indicates he should be drafted. And they would have had a hard time selling that to their fans.

The price is toe-curlingly high, and a month or so ago I thought three first-rounders would have been too much. But I think the Redskins had to do it. Look around the league. Teams that get quarterback right are set for a decade. They are playoff teams, almost guaranteed, every single year. They have far fewer worries at draft time, and their offseasons are far less stressful and scrutinized. Teams that miss on quarterback are miserable, lost and confused, perpetually reaching for ill-fitting solutions and facing the same insurmountable problems year in and year out.

If the Redskins really think Griffin is the guy to fix all of that for them, they were right to do whatever it took to get him. Now, it's on him to justify that price and on them to build the team around him that puts him in position to make this deal look good.